Yesterday evening it was announced that the British gallery Blain|Southern will close all its gallery locations in Berlin, London and New York. It was only announced in early November 2019 that the gallery’s founders, Harry Blain and Graham Southern, would go their separate ways in the future. Southern intends to retire and Blain would continue to run the galleries on his own. However, the gallery would remain fully committed to its artists, its programme and its locations in London, Berlin and New York, reported Artnet News at the time, referring to a spokesperson for the gallery.
Image above: Blain|Southern Berlin, 2012, Photo: Christian Glaeser
Blain|Southern was still mentioned in the list of participants for the Berlin Gallery Weekend 2020 (May 1st-3rd) published this Tuesday. Tim Noble & Sue Webster should be shown. With these artists the gallery had opened its Berlin branch in May 2011.
At the closing our DEEDS editors received this statement from Harry Blain:
“I have reached the difficult decision to close Blain|Southern’s galleries in London, Berlin and New York. Ten years ago, together with Graham Southern I established Blain|Southern. Throughout our partnership, it was an honour to collaborate with so many talented artists and build an exhibition programme that reflected and celebrated the breadth of contemporary art practice worldwide. Alongside the programme, the gallery facilitated new commissions, public loans and museum exhibitions for our artists whilst supporting their broader activities. Despite the support of dedicated gallery staff, I deeply regret that I have been unable to secure the gallery’s future long term. I want to thank all the artists, collectors, institutions, museums, staff and everyone who has worked with the gallery over the last decade.”
Referring to several sources, Artnet News reported in retrospect yesterday, Wednesday, that the gallery was in a tense situation in every sense after the departure of several artists and staff. For example, Charles Saumarez-Smith, former director of the Royal Academy, whose appointment in 2018 was widely seen as a coup, resigned as executive director in December 2019. Craig Burnett, the exhibition director of Blain Southern, left the gallery in November. Since then, several artists had also left the gallery, including the British artist Mat Collishaw, the British painter Rachel Howard, who withdrew from the program in early January, and in December, Berlin-based Henning Strassburger. The artist duo Jake & Dinos Chapman and the painter Sean Scully separated from the gallery in November. According to Artnet News, at least four artists are affected by outstanding payments and the failure to return artwork. Artists have accused the gallery of organizing the closure of the gallery on the back of their artists.
Blain|Southern was an established name in the line-up of Berlin’s galleries, impressing not only by the dimensions of its gallery spaces, with an area of 1,300 square meters in the 18-meter high, light-flooded rooms of the former Tagesspiegel printing house on Potsdamer Strasse. But also by the biographies of Graham Southern and Harry Blain, the gallery’s namesakes and founders. Blain founded his first gallery, Blains Fine Art, in 1992 at the age of only 25. Southern had made a name for himself in 1994 at the age of thirty-four as founding director of London’s Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Department. In 2002, Blain and Southern opened the London gallery for contemporary art “Haunch of Venison”, named after their original location, the Haunch of Vanison Yard, which they sold to Christie’s auction house in 2007. Blain is also the founder of “Sedition”, a platform for the sale of digital art, representing Damien Hirst, Yoko Ono and Wim Wenders, among others. According to a survey by the Evening Standard, Harry Blain and Graham Southern were among the most influential people in London in 2010.
In October 2010 the two started their own gallery Blain | Southern in London. And already in May 2011, the doors in Berlin opened in the premises of the former Tagesspiegel printing house, which was developed with architect David Adjaye, with its modern, industrial character shaped by its relatively recent history. While the renovation work was still in progress, the gallery showed “Turning the Seventh Corner”, an extraordinary exhibition of the British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. This was followed by solo exhibitions of Jonas Burgert, Lawrence Weiner, Jannis Kounellis, Wim Wenders, Chiharu Shiota and Nasan Tur, among others.
The union of the two and the many years of experience in the international art market have enabled the gallery to carry out a strongly international exhibition program with many solo and group exhibitions of renowned contemporary artists and has meanwhile represented over 30 artists. Due to the characteristics of the Berlin premises, artists were able to realize exhibitions that were both site-specific and unique in terms of their size. Chiharu Shiota 2016, for example, showed Uncertain Journey, a space-consuming installation of interwoven red threads, which was well received not only by the professional audience. During the Gallery Weekend 2017, Galerie ZEITLAICH, an exhibition by Jonas Burgert, presented his largest work to date: a 22-meter long and 6-meter high painting that took up almost the entire gallery. In his exhibition Funktionieren, Nasan Tur transformed the gallery 2016 into a printing workshop, in keeping with the former use of the place.
Another of the gallery’s activities has been to support its artists in loans to public institutions and museums such as the Tate Gallery, the DIA Foundation, the Guggenheim Museum and Palazzo Strozzi, as well as scientific publications in the context of exhibitions and other projects, and major projects such as Bill Viola’s Martyrs at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. For these projects, the artist has created a two-part video installation that will remain in the cathedral on permanent loan.
Blain|Southern represented his artists at major international fairs such as Art Cologne, The Armory Show, Frieze Masters and Zona Maco, and was recently announced for this year’s Armory Show in New York and Art Cologne.